Plan to fail or fail to plan against South Africa

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I have been watching the latest round of Test matches featuring India and England and Australia and South Africa. The standard has been okay, there were no tight finishes as such but the players have showed a reasonable level to skill to maintain the notion that Test cricket is alive and kicking. The English and South African players showed talent and temperament, the two Ts needed to succeed at Test level, and its not a surprise why they remain among the top Test teams.
Watching these teams I could not help but wonder about dear Sri Lanka. Yes, we won against Zimbabwe, and quite comprehensively too. In some ways this tour was a much needed confidence boost for our struggling players. Gone were the days when Zimbabwe was a reasonable proposition. During the 90s they boasted the likes of the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and a number of other players whose total sum was greater than their individual parts. It is therefore sad to see the Zimbabwe team reduced to its current state. They would struggle to beat most foreign club teams.
Now that our team has feasted on Zimbabwe and gained form playing substandard international opposition it's time to look at the next assignment – a tour of South Africa. South Africa is arguably the best side going around. The rankings may not reflect this but they have talented players and a gritty, never-say-die attitude that makes them the greatest team of this generation. They play an attacking brand of cricket but when the going gets tough they are certainly able to knuckle down and grind the opposition to dust completely demoralising them. The way they destroyed Australia in their own backyard was downright scary. Imagine playing them at home!
As a loyal but pragmatic Sri Lankan cricket fan I do not expect victory against South Africa. A good hard fight across the series would suffice for now. People speak of selectorial bias and other issues that plague Sri Lankan cricket. Our problem, however, does not lie in selection (or non-selection). Our problem lies in our grassroots – our schools and domestic system does not produce players that can succeed at home but more importantly when playing away. Our system is churning out spinners in abundance and also batsmen who are half-decent at playing spin but we are still not producing the right sort of international player i.e. pace bowler or batsman equipped to deal with pace. Its easy to blame the selectors for not selecting the right players but the harsh reality is that we simply do not have the right players in the first place. In other words our problem is systemic and not simply due to the selection of wrong personnel.

Yet, despite this major obstacle, I wonder why we did not use the opportunity in Zimbabwe to blood young talent. We had nothing to lose. Instead we played proven failures or others who would be nothing but useless in South Africa. Dilruwan Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva? Why? Also, Herath took a bucketload of wickets to add to his career tally, and yes, I really like him (who doesn’t?) but what was the point of overbowling himself against Zimbabwe? We should have utilized this golden opportunity to try out a four pronged pace attack. Herath is unlikely to have developed his bowling during the tour of Zimbabwe and so I see it as nothing but a wasted opportunity.
Unless you take 20 wickets against South Africa in South Africa your chances of defeating them are nil. And you cannot take 20 wickets in South Africa unless you have a strong seam-bowling attack. We are not blessed with that luxury. Our only victory, interestingly, came on a slow South African pitch and set up by Welagedara, a left arm paceman. 
In a hypothetical world a Sri Lankan seam bowling unit consisting of Prasad, Eranga, Chameera and Malinga have the potential to bowl South Africa out if things go their way. But in reality, the first three are injured and Malinga has selfishly made himself unavailable for Tests. Our fast bowling would be led by Suranga Lakmal, he who averages nearly 50 after thirty tests. No one knows who his bowling partners will be. Yes, I know what we will do – we will let Lakmal take the shine off the new ball with either Mathews or Gunaratne and then let Herath and Dilruwan Perera bowl South Africa out. The selectors must be having a laugh.


Sunny's picture

You make some good points in this post. But that is somewhat balanced out by some pretty idiotic statements. How is Dhananjaya de Silva useless? He's young (25 I believe) and a batsman who bowls occasional spin. Not to mention both of his centuries have come when the team was in tricky position as he came in: 25-5 against Aus and 100-odd for 4 against Zim.

As for the pace bowlers, Prasad underwent shoulder surgery. Eranga is banned from bowling regardless of his health issues. Chameera is injured though there is a possibility of him getting fit for this series (hopefully). As for Malinga, he got injured after 4 overs against UAE. The reason he stopped playing tests was because of a similar injury and he wanted to prolong his international career. Plus Pradeep would lead in SA, as he has more pace and has improved a lot over the last few months.

Sunny's picture

Also I forgot to mention. Mathews won't bowl for sure, and Gunaratne bowls at a 110kph- hardly going to trouble a toddler let along someone like Hashim Amla. Most likely out seam bowling all rounder will be Shanaka, and Herath is our sole spinner.
Our bowling line up will most likely be: Pradeep, Lakmal, Chameera/Lahiru Kumara, Herath and Shanaka. Even on the last tour we didn't play two specialist spinners, why would we do it now? Especially considering that Durban (where we won) isn't one of the test venues.

cricexp's picture
Member since:
14 March 2015
Last activity:
52 min 15 sec

The writer does not possess good cricketing knowledge I suppose. SA beat AUS in AUS doesn't mean SA could beat any team in the world, If you think out of the box you could see some teams/players are good at some teams/players, for ex ABD, Amla, Gayle, Root has not been a much threat to us like Kholi, Sharma, Kane W, Maxwell,Butler, etc who has been consistently a threaten to us over the years. Same like England always competitive against AUS same goes with SA against AUS.

SLCLAKMAL 's picture

Great article ...Why don't our stupid SLC understand even the basics of selecting a squad ahead of a important overseas tour... they should have given chances to Jeffrey Vandersay , sandakan , aponso, gunathilake, SIRIWARDENA , dasun shanaka and lahiru milantha... But stupid SLC always picks the wrong past failure choices.... OK LEAVE ALONE THE ABOVE PLAYERS... HOW COME USELESS CANNON FODDER KULASEKERA BEEN PICKED AHEAD OF A CURRENT RISING STAR LAHIRU KUMARA WHO .... I THINK PEOPLE LIKE LAHIRU KUMARA WILL CHALLENGE THE UNFAIRLY RESERVED SPOTS OF LAKMAL , SO SLC IS THINKING TO RUIN LAHIRU KUMARA S CAREER BY TRAUMATIZING HIM MENTALLY AS THEY DID TO MILINDA SIRI AND ROSHAN SILVA.

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
1 day 15 hours

Some decent points here but don't get the criticism of De Silva - he has been a find for us in the last 5 tests but yes why are we not giving youngsters a chance. Why on earth are Tharanga and Kula in the team for the limited overs.

Looking to SA, the horizon is seriously gloomy folks. We couldn't beat them at home in our conditions last year. Their pace bowling stocks are scary when you consider they have blown away the Aussies without Steyn and Morkel and AB is not on the tour and Amla is yet to pass 50. That I am afraid is real talent and depth.

Our pace bowling stocks are thin will probably come down to Pradeep, Lakmal and Kumara. This is just one of the challenges as we also need runs. What is clear is we would need to play out of our skins just to compete against SA in SA.

Onlinepoet2000's picture
Member since:
19 December 2013
Last activity:
1 year 42 weeks

Thank you for all your comments.

Stormy - The South African pace bowling line-up is, as you put it, scary. They can dismantle any batting line up. We just don't have the personnel to put up a decent fight anymore. Our batters would need to step up and grind the opposition down. It'll be ugly but that's the only way we can compete against the South Africans in Tests. As for the bowlers, I really don't think we have bowlers good enough to bowl SA out twice but we can start with playing four fast bowlers for a change, even if one of them happens to be an all-rounder. But, like the batsmen stepping up, I can't see ths happening.

Sunny - idiotic I may be for being slightly pessimistic you're simply deluded. A few days after I posted my article our batting collapsed against the West Indies in a 50 over game. I was horrified to learn that we couldn't deal with the Windies pace bowlers on a Harare deck. Also, can I know the logic behind your conclusion that we stand a good chance of competing against the South Africans? That's what I inferred from your comments and I'd be interested to know. Also, if you'd understood my last paragraph you would've realised that I was being sarcastic. But then again I don't expect you to get sarcasm.

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